What is Nature Journaling?

Nature journaling might be a term you’ve heard used before. It might even be something you’ve done without knowing it.

It’s something I didn’t realise I was doing.

And then I discovered a wonderful nature journaling teacher in America: John Muir Laws. His teaching is so inspirational that I just had to invite him to share his message with our community.

He has so much brilliant advice to share that we’ve packaged a selection of it into a course for members. It’s aimed at developing a nature journaling pracrice from the angle of wanting to create visual art.

But, as John (known to his friends – and now us- as Jack) explains in the video I’m sharing with you here, there are several other tools we can use to connect with nature, including words and numbers.

To make it really easy to find connections between nature and our own thoughts, Jack gives us 8 small but mighty words to remember:

  • I notice…
  • I wonder…
  • It reminds me of…

Jack also explains that by engaging in this simple practice when we’re focusing our attention on a nature subject, we not only open ourselves to curiosity, but we stimulate our neural pathways and cultivate a kind of connected creativity in ourselves. And, as I’ve looked at before, these kinds of experience become hardwired into our brains because of something called ‘neuroplasticity’, which means we can shape our brains.

So the act of nature journaling, as Jack explains, can lead to all kinds of enhanced mental function, like the ability to switch into a flow-state, improved memory and increased focus.

If this has piqued your interest, I think you’ll love hearing Jack speak about it. His enthusiasm is infectious. So grab a drink and then watch this:

I hope you’ve enjoyed watching this discussion and that you’re feeling inspired to have a go at some nature journaling. Jack has an encyclopaedic book on the subject which you can find here.

If you’re feeling that you’d like to develop your art skills for nature journaling, a great place to start is with my free watercolour class, where I guide you through every step. You can find that here.

Have you tried nature journaling before? Is it something you’ve been doing already without knowing it? Are you feeling inspired to have a go? We’d love to hear from you in the comments below.

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31 Comments

  1. Diane M Ruggles on October 18, 2022 at 4:29 pm

    I just saw this FANTASTIC announcement about a Nature Journaling Course!! Well count me in Girlfriend!!! ❤️ I’m VERY EXCITED!! I have always found nature to be very rejuvenating and relaxing. This Course is just what I have needed!! I believe many will feel the same. Thank You Anna and Thank You Jack!!!
    Passionately!
    Diane Ruggles

    • Anna Mason on October 18, 2022 at 4:38 pm

      Brilliant Diane, so pleased you’re up for it!

  2. Melanie D on October 18, 2022 at 6:31 pm

    “Step outside, take a walk…”
    “The process of deliberate curiosity…”
    This discussion is not just about art, it is so much more.
    Thank you so much for introducing this process of thinking.

    • Anna Mason on October 18, 2022 at 8:40 pm

      Thanks Melanie, I’m glad you enjoyed this.

    • John Muir Laws on October 19, 2022 at 2:04 am

      Yes! Journaling is your brain on paper. The art is a tool in service of thinking.
      Jack

  3. Lisa Van Alen on October 18, 2022 at 6:32 pm

    Anna thank you so much for this post! ❤️ I have been doing nature Journaling for a while now but never new it was an actual thing. Ahhhh now I have a name for this! I love it. I want to share this with my grandchildren when we go our nature walks. now. I will be including brain excerices for them encouraging them to ask questions and jot them down. I am excited about this. thank you so much!

    • Anna Mason on October 18, 2022 at 8:42 pm

      Great idea to do this with your grandchildren, I’m sure they’ll enjoy it.

  4. Cinny on October 18, 2022 at 6:54 pm

    Very interesting and informative…..never thought about how much creativity, focus and improved memory are involved, especially the improved memory. I’ve played with the idea of journaling and now I think I’ll do more than just that.

    • Anna Mason on October 18, 2022 at 8:42 pm

      Oh I’m pleased it’s inspired you to do this some more.

    • John Muir Laws on October 19, 2022 at 2:03 am

      Wonderful. This skill will grow and your brain will too!

  5. MJ Rosello on October 18, 2022 at 7:04 pm

    Anna thanks so much for organising this course, John Muir is a legend! I already bookmarked the course to start doing it as soon as possible. This are wonderful news.

    • Anna Mason on October 18, 2022 at 8:43 pm

      Oh brilliant MJ – So pleased you’re keen to do this!

  6. Renee Cassese on October 18, 2022 at 8:15 pm

    Anna
    This is an amazing insight into a process I use often, being both a poet and watercolor artist. John;s explanation of the brain helped me understand it better. I love your description of comparing the shape and movement of flowers to human gestures and poses, I never thought of it that way.

    • Anna Mason on October 18, 2022 at 8:44 pm

      So pleased it’s helped give you more understanding into what you love to do Renee.

  7. Di Smith on October 18, 2022 at 8:34 pm

    Thank you Anna. Well I’ll be, I have been subconsciously doing this albeit in a different form as a keen gardener along with growing my own veg, just witnessing seeds germinate still blows my mind. Instead of a journal I take photos which then prompt me to investigate more. Everything in nature fascinates me. Grateful to have the internet at my fingertips to research & thrilled to know it’s being healthy for my brain. I now know why I always feel so good after being out in garden & find it addictive. Thank you for sharing😃

    • Anna Mason on October 18, 2022 at 8:45 pm

      Oh yes it fits with gardening beautifully. In fact ‘gardening journaling’ is something I’m planning to do this year as I make my garden from scratch.

      • Lynn Ava on October 21, 2022 at 5:36 am

        Same here! I’m gathering all of the stuff for this now and can’t wait. Journaling is a great way to organize thoughts and keep track of progress. I also journal dreams and find it a sorting method for what can be confusing about dreaming to better understand what my mind is trying to tell me about what it’s feeling in the waking state. Thanks for doing this interview. It was good to hear Jack speak to his thought process too. I’ve had his book The Laws Guide to Drawing Birds in my library and it is truly a treasure as I’m very much a bird and plant lover. Nature gives us so much to enjoy.

  8. LadyCinnamon on October 18, 2022 at 9:27 pm

    Thank you, Anna. What a delightful new angle in your program. John’s webpage is “loaded” with new ideas and perspectives. I’ve always added my own journal notes to your tutorials. Really want to start doing more of this type of “free handed” drawing and journaling. This is exactly the boost I need.

    • Anna Mason on October 18, 2022 at 9:29 pm

      So pleased to hear it!

    • John Muir Laws on October 19, 2022 at 2:05 am

      So happy this is of use!

  9. Carol on October 18, 2022 at 11:09 pm

    Thank you both for presenting this conversation. Very informative.

    Yes, I’ve been doing this for a while, but didn’t know it had a name. 🙂
    I find it very interesting & enjoy doing it very much.

  10. Sabira on October 18, 2022 at 11:12 pm

    This video really inspired me i will be observant and enjoy the simple way to create art.
    Thanks for sharing much appreciated.

  11. Hugh McGuire on October 19, 2022 at 12:33 am

    Without nature I don’t exist. I look forward to what is to come. Previously my “journaling” has always been via photography. I’m really counting on a new voyage.

  12. Marina Michaels on October 19, 2022 at 4:36 am

    I’m so excited about this course. In the US, many people know of and admire John Muir Laws.

    I have his nature journaling book, yet I’ve held back because of the usual fears and questions: Am I good enough as an artist to even try this? Will I like what I produce, or will I be disappointed and discouraged at not reaching my internal goals?

    After watching this video discussion, I’m encouraged by the thoughts that nobody must see anything I’m not happy with, and the process is more important than the results. I am sure the videos will ease me into nature journaling gently.

    Thank you, Anna and Jack, for making this part of the Anna Mason school!

  13. Lynne Bennett on October 19, 2022 at 4:46 am

    I’ve been taking “a photo a day” for the last 5 years of something natural in my garden or in the world around me. Insects, leaves, clouds, flowers etc etc. I love going back over the year and seeing how nature has evolved in my large garden. After reading about nature journalling and watching this video I’m inspired to do a daily drawing from nature, in a specific journal, to increase my basic drawing skills and as a different way to record seasonal changes. Thankyou so much Anna and Jack.

  14. Joyce Love on October 19, 2022 at 5:30 am

    We just returned from a trip to Yosemite National Park and I took lots of pictures of the natural world there. It would be so exciting to use them as inspirations for a nature journal. We heard so much about John Muir from the 1800’s in Yosemite.. A little research (I was curious) showed me that they are not related but it’s a nice name for a naturalist to have. I have wanted to try nature journaling but never had the virtual or in person instruction on how to go about it. Thank you Anna for including the John Muir Laws course in your school. And thank you Jack (if I may call you that) for being so generous with your time, talent and scientist/naturalist’s knowledge which you share. Your description of the brain’s part in all this was not only fascinating, but easy to understand. By the way, Anna, by participating in the Monthly Challenge, I’ve learned a lot about the subjects from the tidbits included by other school members as well as by looking things up when I was curious to learn more.

  15. mrs s e pearce on October 19, 2022 at 10:16 am

    thank you for the video. i love art and nature. i needed something else to concentrate on. i was diagnosed with two brain tumours september 2020. after major op for the largest tumour i had to learn to grip / draw etc again and art brought me through and onto some lovely work even if done over many sessions. i have shown friends how to enjoy art for over seven years even though i am not qualified. we together have produced beautiful work , but these friends have all been through so much,.my emphasis has always been on enjoyment and friendship first, with amazing results .I had to stop the classes when diagnosed , but still advise online and they send me photos of what they have produced . this has enabled us all to get through lock down .i am going to forward this video if i may onto my small group of art friends as i think they will all enjoy this. this will help me on my journey to
    adapt to the changes in my lifestyle.. thanky you

  16. Cassandra on October 19, 2022 at 4:01 pm

    Oh, how much I love this collaboration you’ll never know! I’m so excited. I already have John’s books and I absolutely love his approach. What a wonderful addition to the course catalogue!

  17. Megan O'Connor on October 19, 2022 at 11:04 pm

    I am delighted that you are doing this! I take daily walks in our city ravines and keep records with photos but would love to develop a habit and skills for visual note-taking on paper. Thank you, both!

  18. Carol Wilson on October 23, 2022 at 3:44 pm

    This is an enlightening and uplifting video. I have always been a nature lover but this has inspired me to really give journaling a try. Thank you both for sharing.

  19. Titti Malmberg on November 5, 2022 at 5:19 am

    So much inspiration! I must give journaling a try…
    Thank you both!

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